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Mizzou basketball: 5 things to watch

November 11, 2017 GMT

Who runs the point?

After auditioning no fewer than four players at the position, Cuonzo Martin seems settled on Kassius Robertson as his point guard, at least to start Friday’s game against Iowa State. The graduate transfer from Canisius came to Mizzou this summer as a 3-point specialist but has never played the point at any level. The Tigers like his mix of ball-handling and shooting ability and plan to employ him at the top of their defense, guarding the opponent’s main distributor. Freshman Blake Harris, the team’s future at point, will get his share of minutes at the position. MU could go with junior holdovers Terrence Phillips and Jordan Geist, too. Phillips, a starter for most of the last two seasons, might have to settle for a reduced role under the new regime.

Can Tilmon stay on the floor?

Martin loves the production he gets from Jeremiah Tilmon when the 6-10 freshman is on the court. The trouble is keeping Tilmon there. The rookie from East St. Louis fouled out of exhibitions against Kansas and Wisconsin, even when the teams agreed to allow seven fouls per player. There were local whispers during his high school career that Tilmon rarely played to his potential, but Martin’s staff has raved about his work ethic and energy on the court — when he’s on the court. “I think he’ll make the adjustments and we’ll keep pushing forward,” Martin said. “We’re a different team when he’s not on the floor.”

Who makes up Martin’s rotation?

Martin doesn’t employ a deep bench and wants to cut his rotation down to around nine players. It’s uncertain who will start Friday’s game, other than Robertson and freshman forward Michael Porter Jr. Other staples in the rotation figure to be Tilmon, Harris, Phillips, Jontay Porter, Kevin Puryear, Jordan Barnett and, likely, Cullen VanLeer and Jordan Geist. VanLeer started Sunday’s exhibition against Missouri State and could earn minutes in the backcourt alongside Robertson.

To zone or not to zone?

Martin has been a disciple of man-to-man defense throughout his career but expects to break old habits and play some zone this year. A zone could work wonders with three 6-10 forwards on the court in the Porters and Tilmon. That’s a lot of limbs to disrupt shots and passes on the defensive end. Plus, zone defenses could also protect Tilmon and the other forwards from picking up fouls in the halfcourt.

Where does Barnett fit?

Barnett was a streak shooter in his first season with the Tigers last season but showed his potential in the exhibition against Kansas, scoring 19 points on just 10 shots from the field, including five of seven from 3-point range. The 6-6 senior from CBC can play guard or small forward. He can spot up in the corner or slash through defenses on the wing. He can rebound on either end and lead the break in transition. The points are nice, Martin called out Barnett’s defense after the Kansas game, saying he expects the senior to be a lock-down defender on the perimeter.